By Ahmed Adel
Global Research, February 02, 2023
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The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a report in January which outlines the consequences that US arms deliveries to Ukraine had on its own stockpiles. The conclusions of the report will surely galvanise factions in the US political system that are against the sending of arms to Ukraine because Washington is not prepared for a large-scale conflict with China.
According to the report’s authors, events in Ukraine make it clear that an armed conflict between two Great Powers is bound to develop into a protracted war, and not only on the battlefield, but also in industry, which must supply the front with everything it needs without interruption from arming soldiers to high-precision missiles and bombers.
Seth G. Jones, director of CSIS’s International Security Program, wrote in another report:
“As the war in Ukraine illustrates, a war between major powers is likely to be a protracted, industrial-style conflict that needs a robust defence industry able to produce enough munitions and other weapon systems for a protracted war if deterrence fails.”
He warned that the US defence industry lacks adequate surge capacity for a major war as it is operating in a peacetime situation rather than the current competitive security environment.
“The United States has been slow to replenish its arsenal, and the DoD (Department of Defense) has only placed on contract a fraction of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine,” Jones said.
These problems, he argued, are particularly concerning since China is heavily investing in munitions and acquiring high-end weapons systems five to six times faster than the US.
Currently there is an immediate demand for the M777 155mm howitzer in the US. The Pentagon has supplied Ukraine with more than 160 M777 howitzers, along with more than a million rounds of ammunition. In addition, the stockpile of Javelin ATGM (mainly fire control units and launchers), Stinger MANPADS and AN/TPQ counter-reaction radars are decreasing sharply. Ukraine has received more than 8,500 Javelin ATGMs, 1,600 Stinger MANPADS and 50 AN/TPQ counter-reaction radars.
According to the think tank, rapidly increasing production is impractical. However, they argue that Washington is taking steps in the right direction and can expect to triple their 155mm ammunition production within three years. None-the-less, the report calls for the hoarding of other critical weapons.
According to the CSIS report, the US will probably lose the war for Taiwan. A war over Taiwan would mainly take place in the air and at sea. In this context, it is unlikely that the US can supply weapons to the island because the People’s Liberation Army Navy will immediately blockade it.
The Pentagon has repeatedly hosted simulated war games to visualise how conflict with China would look. Results from war drill scenarios show that the key condition for victory is the destruction or serious weakening of China’s navy. However, simulations almost never lead to unconditional success as China has a strong air defence system, many warships and fighter jets.
According to analysts, in such conditions, the JASSM-ER stealth anti-ship missile becomes important because it can hit targets up to 925km away. However, in a war, hundreds would be needed every week, if not thousands, meaning that the JASSM-ER missile stockpile would run out in less than a week. In addition, it would take the US two years to restore the supply of the JASSM-ER missiles.
The Pentagon will soon encounter a shortage of SM-6 air defence missiles, as well as Tomahawk missiles for the Navy. A problem for the US Navy is that missile contracts are not always approved by Congress. In January, US Navy Commander Michael Gilday complained to reporters that a $33 million contract for 11 LRASM missiles had been rejected at the highest level.
Shortage of anti-ship missiles is not the only problem though, but also the means of carrying them. In 2021, the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute published a report concluding that the US could lose most of its aircraft if a conflict over Taiwan broke out.
The main problem, according to them, are the condition of refuelling planes far from home airfields. Fighter planes and bombers will not be able to hit targets at long distances. This is especially important in conflicts with countries with large territories, such as China. After the end of the Cold War, the US fleet of aerial refuelling aircrafts was nearly halved to 470. This number is clearly not enough for an all-out war with China over Taiwan.
It appears, according to the experts, that the US has very little prospect for victory in a war with China over Taiwan. These damning conclusions could galvanise factions in the US who oppose the sending of weapons to Ukraine, especially as there is a growing call to confront China instead of Russia.
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Ahmed Adel is a Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.
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